At first glance, you might think Steve Warner is just another college student in his faded wash jeans and polo T-shirt.
However, this mild-mannered man is actually a Bradley professor.
With an office that is “literally a closest, it is used for storage,” Warner is in his second year as the film appreciation professor in Theatre Department.
Although interested in film since he was a child, the Bradley alumnus with a journalism degree admits this was not what he had planned for his future.
“I took Film Appreciation from Jim Langley when I was a student here,” Warner said. “When Jim left, the department needed to fill his position, so they asked a friend of mine. By accident, my friend Brad got an advertising job in Chicago, and so he put my name into [the department chairman] for consideration. You could say this job sort of just fell into my lap.”
In his second year as a professor, Warner said his career has only helped expand his appreciation for film. Although he admits he likes a wide range of movies, he thinks film is a medium with the most power.
“Movies are everywhere,” he said. “It is just a lot easier to go to the movies than, say, go to the theatre because it is always available.”
Warner said he thinks movies shed a positive light on situations that are serious or uncomfortable by essentially tricking the filmgoer into seeing the movie. He said the magic of film makes putting in subtle messages about the bigger world easier to do, and, in film, those messages, affect others more easily.
In his class, Warner shows films from all genres, cultures and times, but no class is ever the same for him.
“Generally, I never show the same films from semester to semester, just so I don’t have to watch the same movies over and over again,” Warner said. “Also, by doing this, I get to learn a lot about students’ likes and dislikes and see more about where they are coming from in their own life.”
Warner admitted there are some movies students tend to think “change their lives” that he just cannot stomach, but also realizes where they are coming from.
“A big movie I get a lot is ‘Garden State’ when I ask students about movies they like that have impacted them,” he said. “I’m not a fan of that movie. However, I have had that experience they are talking about from films like that. All things change us, but we connect to film on a different, more real level.”
For him, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is the movie that made a huge impact on him. After not talking to an ex-girlfriend for years, Warner admits to getting back in touch with her after being changed by that movie.
Another thing Warner finds interesting about film today is that moviemakers seem to be stuck in dwelling on the past. Warner said with all the movies talking about politics of the world and America today, watching them in 30 years is going to be highly interesting.
“Nowadays, we have movies about Iraq, for example, but do any of them shed a good light on our situation?” Warner said. “We know what we are doing is not necessarily right, so do we really want to hear about it in our films?”
Warner said he is not extremely critical of all movies, saying there are movies out there he watches as his guilty pleasures.
“We talk about this concept in my class, about movies we like and movies we think are movie greats,” he said. “I have students say how great movies like ‘Legally Blonde’ are, but I have to ask if it is a good movie or if it is just one of those movies that makes you feel good.”
He said Cate Blanchett is “the last of the great method actors.”
“It’s a sign of a great actor when you forget you are watching them playing someone, and she always does that,” he said.
Warner said he thinks filmmakers are going to have to step up to the plate as people continue to grow in their film appreciation.
“My students alone are incredibly learned in the way of film. They come up with discussion topics I would never have even thought of,” Warner said. “Society as a whole even is taking a lot more to keep entertained. People don’t want just fun anymore, they seem to be looking for something deeper.”